Fact Sheet
Gray Wolf
Gray Wolf, © Bruce Faanes
Gray Wolf, © Dawn Hammond

Helping Ranchers Coexist with Wolves

Defenders has pioneered practical solutions to help livestock and wolves coexist on the same landscape. We’re working with ranchers across the West to develop nonlethal deterrents, better animal husbandry practices, and other innovative tools that minimize conflict and build social acceptance for wolves.

Over the years, we’ve helped hundreds of ranchers purchase electric fencing and guard dogs, hire range riders, and deploy scare devices to keep wolves away from livestock. By eliminating conflicts with livestock and the lethal backlash against wolves that often follows, these proactive methods help protect both livestock and wolves.

The Problem

While wolves typically hunt for wild animals such as deer and elk, they will occasionally prey on livestock when the opportunity arises. Most incidents of predation are avoidable by removing attractants like dead or dying livestock, and increasing security.  If a wolf becomes seriously habituated to preying on livestock, it can be very hard to break the habit, and the wolf is often killed as a result.

How We’re Helping

In 2008, Defenders began a landmark demonstration project in the Wood River Valley of central Idaho to protect thousands of sheep that move through wolf pack territory in the Sawtooth Wilderness during the summer months. Our team of field technicians has worked with sheep herders to reduce attractants like livestock carcasses and to use guard dogs, portable fencing, starter pistols, flashlights, and air horns to keep wolves away. Our Wood River Wolf Project in Blaine County has successfully protected between 10,000 and 27,000 sheep annually grazing on the Sawtooth National Forest, losing fewer than 25 sheep total over the last 6 years – without having to kill a single wolf in the project area. Despite having one of the highest concentrations of wolves and livestock sharing the same landscape, the Wood River project area has the lowest loss rate of livestock and wolves in the state.

We are currently working with ranchers in eastern Oregon and Washington to deploy similar strategies. In 2010 and 2012 respectively, we helped Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife hire range riders to patrol public and private ranch lands where cattle graze during summer months. We also provided trainings and organized workshops in Oregon and Washington for hundreds of state, federal and tribal wildlife managers, and livestock owners to learn how to proactively manage wolf-livestock conflict using nonlethal methods.

Now that the majority of wolves are no longer federally protected, it is even more important to demonstrate practical ways for wolves and livestock to coexist. We are continuing to work across the region to implement new projects and raise the profile of innovative nonlethal management tools like turbofladry, a simple type of electrical fencing barrier that originated from wolf control methods used generations ago in eastern Europe. In 2011, we also helped Oregon pass comprehensive legislation to initiate a state-run livestock compensation and wolf coexistence program, and in 2012-2013 we worked with Washington State legislators to help provide more than one million dollars in support of wolf coexistence efforts. We hope to encourage similar efforts wherever there are potential conflicts between livestock and wolves or other wildlife or pets.
 

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